Over 40,000 people spent Labor Day weekend at Dragon*Con this year, transforming downtown Atlanta into pop-culture wonderland. The convention's guest list was impressive and included Star Trek: The Next Generation's Marina Sirtis, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, John de Lancie, and LeVar Burton, The X-Files' William B. Davis, Firefly's Jewel Staite and Morena Baccarin, and the entire main cast of the original I Dream of Jeannie. The annual parade drew a record number of participants, with the 501st Star Wars regiment, traditionally the largest of the marching groups, rivaled in size by several entries, including the Doctor Who contingent. The convention also held no less than three attempts to enter the Guinness Book of World Records, and succeeded with the Largest Gathering of Star Trek costumers with 571. Convention staff made an effort to keep lines under control this year by preventing people from lining up more than an hour and half in advance of each event. However, Dragon*Con still did not choose employ a computerized registration system, which are utilized by conventions one-fourth its size. Instead, registration staff had to look up each of the attendees in gigantic three-ring binders, a process which meant that registration line wait times averaged four to five HOURS on Thursday. They desperately need to streamline the process before attendees revolt.
Sketch and Shiva's Weekend Breakdown:
After our long road trip down to Atlanta last year, it was refreshing to roll out of bed and head to the airport for a short flight to Dragon*Con Thursday morning. We met up with friends at the airport and rode the MARTA into Peachtree Center before checking into the Marriott. Once we were settled in, we decided we were ready to tackle the infamous pre-reg line in order to pick up our badges; things were not looking good when we walked up to the Sheraton and found that the line was already wrapped around the outside of the building. Last year it took two hours to get our badges, but this year it took two hours just to get inside and we stood sweltering in the heat. The beer they were selling to the line helped, but not much. Once we were inside we were out of the sun, but we were crammed into a gigantic ballroom packed with human bodies for another two hours. The tightly packed body heat was sweltering, and the only place to grab water was outside the ballroom. We tried sitting whenever possible and we saw one girl collapse from exhaustion inside. We had to split up when the lines finally divided into sections based upon last name, and by the time we both got our badges and able to get the hell out of there, we had been standing in line for over FOUR HOURS. It was excruciating and so unnecessary; we hope they fix this soon because the convention just keeps growing in size each year.
Friday morning Shiva got into her Cheshire Cat costume while Sketch got into his brand new Flynn Rider costume and we headed over to the Sheraton pool to meet up with Ellystar for a large Disney-themed gathering. We were early, and took advantage of the open space for Shiva to do a great photoshoot of Sketch and Ellystar's costumes before anyone else showed up. Ellystar was wearing Belle in her village dress, and Shiva got some fun shots of her by the Sheraton fountain. Soon the rest of the Disney cosplayers arrived, and the place was packed. There were lots of great costumes, including Broadway musical versions of Lumière, Cogsworth, and the feather duster from Beauty and the Beast cast, and despite the fact Tangled hasn't even come out yet, there was even a Rapunzel for Sketch to pose with! After the shoot we wandered the convention for a bit, had lunch, and then headed over to the Hyatt to check out the art show. On our way in, we were grabbed and asked if we wanted to enter the hall contest which was happening in the bottom floor lobby; we shrugged and agreed. It didn't take long to have our photos taken and answer a few questions, after which we spent an enjoyable time looking at all of the artwork. Back at the Marriott, we spent most of the afternoon exploring the various tightly-packed dealers' rooms; luckily we were wearing costumes that were easy to walk around in so it was a good time to try and squeeze through the narrow aisles.
That night after dinner Sketch and PatrickD headed to Brian Brushwood's NFSW podcast panel, were they trolled their friend with various signs and participated in several antics for the show. Shiva, meanwhile, headed over to the Sheraton to try and make it into Marina Sirtis' panel, who she had grown up watching as Deanna Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation. She thought she might not get in, but she just made the cutoff and was in the last seated row of a standing room only panel room. Much to Shiva's surprise, the panel was absolutely hilarious; Troi was never her favorite TNG character but Marina was fantastic. Her tales of escapades with her bestie "Dornie," AKA Michael Dorn, were especially entertaining. After the panel wrapped Shiva made her way back to the Marriott and was stopped by a Batman cosplayer who liked her “Batgirl costume” even though she was just wearing a Batman T-Shirt with a black skirt and boots. He pulled her into a Batman photoshoot which was both funny and embarrassing since the rest of the cosplayers had fantastic costumes and she was just wearing normal clothes. When his friends starting commenting "when you get married you can tell your kids you met as Batman and Batgirl” Shiva finally realized what was happening and interjected, “Well, my boyfriend actually got me this shirt.” Thankfully the Batman was a little disappointed but very gentlemanly about the rejection, and Sketch got a kick out of the story.
Saturday Sketch and PatD marched in the parade with the Doctor Who group, and Shiva and Ellystar joined them on the 10th floor of the Marriott for the post-parade photoshoot as Amy Pond and River Song. There were a ton of excellent Who cosplayers, including several incredible weeping angels. We spent some time chatting with them about how they made their costumes, and were surprised to learn the wigs were dyed yarn! After lunch we changed into our new King Kandy and Queen Frostine costumes and met up with Crazyflower, Ellystar, and Sketch's niece and nephew for a Candyland photoshoot around the Suntrust area with Christa. After the shoot wrapped up we wandered the Marriott atrium as a group and were swarmed for photos for hours. We knew cosplaying Candyland would be fun but we had no idea it would be this popular! Sketch's niece and nephew, dressed as the Candy Kids, entertained themselves by hiding under Shiva's Frostine skits and surprising people who asked for a photo. Not only were the photographers surprised to see two little kids appear out of nowhere, but were even more confused when they asked Shiva if they belonged to her and she said "No." Sketch's sister, their actual Mom, stood in the crowd laughing the whole time.
That evening we got into our new Mal and Inara outfits and met up with the rest of our Firefly group to see Brian Brushwood’s magic show. Following the show we walked to the Westin for the Firefly-themed party entitled "It's A Mighty Fine Shindig." The party started out slow, but there were a ton of cosplayers and no lack of "cupcake dress" Kaylees! After a few cocktails, a fantastic folk band came on stage and started playing everything from toe-tapping Celtic music to a folk music version of "Sweet Caroline," and we hit the dance floor. Our River soon joined us, totally drunk and spinning like a top, perfectly in character. PatrickD as Simon and Pat O’Malley as Jayne joined in, and the crowd formed a circle around us, clapping and enjoying the drunken Firefly cast wildly cutting up a rug. Eventually the onlookers joined in as well, and soon enough the entire party was dancing and singing and having a fantastic time. We danced until the very last song, which we ended with a kiss. We where EXHAUSTED by the end of the evening but it was the most fun we'd ever had at a con!
Sunday morning we wanted to be comfortable so we wore our Star Trek: The Next Generation uniforms and hit up the I Dream of Jeannie panel with all three of the original main cast members. We grew up watching the reruns of the show on Nick at Nite, and tt was awesome to see them in person and hear them tell stories about the industry in the 1960s. Barbara Eden was also still drop-dead gorgeous at 76! The audience, however, was the worst we'd ever experienced at a convention; it was full of obnoxious, middle-aged men drooling all over Barbara and using the Q&A time up gushing all over the place and asking totally inane questions instead of facilitating an interesting discussion. We were embarrassed on their behalf and at least took some heart that this seemed to be a generational divide and that panels with an audience our own age were generally much more respectful.
That evening we changed back into our Firefly costumes and met Jewel Staite and got her autograph; she was a sweetheart and loved our outfits, telling everyone we looked like the cast's stunt doubles! Afterwards we went out to a sushi place for dinner still in our costumes; several strangers came up to us during the meal and commented, “We’re so glad you two finally got together!” meaning Mal and Inara, to which we looked at each other, and quite honestly replied, “So are we!” meaning ourselves. We got a good laugh out of it. That night we hung around the Marriott atrium, people watching with friends and taking photos of excellent costumes. We had a late checkout the next morning and after breakfast did a last round of the dealer's rooms before heading to the airport; Shiva found a poster version of a photo taken of the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast she had been looking for for years and bought it. We're going to have fun meeting all the actors and collecting their signatures for it for the next several years! Excellent weekend, all around.